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How senior year has changed me as a writer

Senior creative writing major and Northern Review Editor-in-Chief Kasy Long is always seen writing, looking for the next story for her to write. (photo/Dale Long)

Senior creative writing major and Northern Review Editor-in-Chief Kasy Long is always seen writing, looking for the next story for her to write. (photo/Dale Long)

“Now’s the time to seize the day,” from the Tony Award-winning musical “Newsies,” was my slogan for the past year. After working as a communications and marketing intern at the National Comedy Center/Lucy-Desi Museum & Center for Comedy, I arrived at my senior year of college as a hopeful individual. I was confident. I was ready to work and become a better writer, while also discovering more about myself along the way.

For most students, senior year is the time to relax, but not for me. It was my time to “seize the day.”

I know who I am. After my internship experience, I knew that I eventually want to work in a museum or a cultural institution. Every day I search for job openings at museums. Is the Emily Dickinson Museum hiring anyone? What about the Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald Museum? Is there a place I can work that I will love?

I’m a writer. As I write more feature articles about individuals I admire, including my senior capstone project on NASA mechanical engineer Abe Silverstein, I say to myself, “This is what I’m supposed to do with my life. I’m supposed to be a writer. Now I know.”

I’m supposed to devote hours of my day to researching biographical information about someone I know nothing about to educate an audience. I’m supposed to type away on my laptop until I can’t seem to write anymore. Ernest Hemingway once said, “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”

Hemingway isn’t talking about literally bleeding on the typewriter; it’s a metaphor. You bleed out your thoughts. You pour your emotions into your writing with each word and idea. You may not know exactly what you’re writing, but once you have it, you have it.

But I found myself being discouraged this year because of the senior capstone project. I struggled. I wasn’t connecting to what I wanted to write. I wrote a creative nonfiction essay about Silverstein, the man who worked with his team of engineers to put man on the moon during the historic Apollo 11 mission. But to pass your capstone project, you sometimes must connect to what other people want you to write—not what you want to write.

I was torn in the middle. I was lost and stumbling because I wasn’t myself. I knew I wasn’t writing the quality work I should have produced. I was producing work that people wanted me to create—not what I wanted to make. As I struggled during the project, I began to hate my essay. In one week, I went from loving my project to hating it. I went from loving my writing—the work I poured out on my laptop—to hating it. I didn’t want to write anymore.

For a writer, that’s a very scary day when you sit at your laptop and say, “I don’t want to do this anymore.”

But then one night I was walking back to my apartment when I saw the moon, shining up above me in the nighttime sky. It was a full moon and I remember thinking about how Abe Silverstein used to look at this same moon 50 years ago. He dreamed an impossible dream, and he worked tirelessly to accomplish his tasks. Working for NASA wasn’t easy; there were struggles. If he never gave up on the dream of putting a man on the moon, then I shouldn’t give up on my dream of being a writer—the writer I want to be.

I went back to my capstone project and wrote. I began to bleed onto my laptop the way Hemingway used to bleed onto his typewriter. I considered what my professors were saying and I altered their suggestions to what I felt was best as the writer. I worked on my project until I finally passed.

I went out and seized the day. I changed as a writer because I learned the valuable lesson on remembering where it all started—why I love to write. I write for myself, not for others. I write because I have an amazing story to share with readers.

I am not the same writer I was last year and I’m happy for this transformation. If senior year changed me as a writer, I look forward to seeing where I’ll be in the next five years. I look forward to seeing what I’ll bleed out next. 

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